Carta – An Index Of Birds

Carta - An Index Of Birds

I’ve listened to what is Carta’s second album more than once now and it seems to reflect not my own mood, but that of my surroundings, whenever I play it. At a first hearing in February it seemed as bleakly austere, even as coldly impersonal as the drab grey late winter weather that I almost came to associate it with. Listening to the album now, the music and its themes seem both warmer and less desolate, optimism replacing the blankly nihilistic impression that the San Franciscan quintet apparently laid before me two months previously. Not every album, in fact very few records I’ve heard have ever drawn quite such a variance of my opinion, except perhaps the one or two albums that I always associate with those (thankfully rare) moments of actual illness that I’ve experienced over the years. And I don’t think I’m overlaying too much of a personalised interpretation regarding either what has inspired Carta to create An Index Of Birds or indeed my own response to the album. Turn over the CD cover and there on the reverse is printed the phrase ‘you’re going home in an ambulance’.

By their own admission, Carta wish to affect their listeners to the very marrow of their being, unsatisfied as they are with the notion of merely providing an appreciable listening experience. Carta don’t exactly want your soul, but they might wish to claim you as entirely their own, merely on the grounds of your having seen let alone actually heard a copy of their album. And it is a very finely balanced piece of work, this album, combining as it does delicately structured post rock cadences, interweaved with cello and other less recognisable sounds. Band mainman Kyle Monday has quite deftly pulled together what can sometimes seem a conflicting amalgam of influences and styles, with the music establishing its cohesion from the very outset. Downtempo, incessant, gently demanding of your attentions, regardless of what the weather’s doing.

Where things fall down slightly is in the words Carta choose to present to us, and in their imagery. There isn’t any clue as to why the album is called An Index Of Birds, and both the lyrics and song titles themselves somehow lack the cohesion displayed by the music. Tracks such as “Descension” and “Santander” quite definitely put me in mind of the music of the Cocteau Twins, but whereas full length works such as “Treasure”and “Blue Bell Knoll” contained artistic unities within their structure to a point where it was possible to describe them as perhaps concept albums, Carta seem either unsure or wilfully oblique in their wordage: their privilege, but the music requires a similarly strengthening framework of conceptualism to that which Robin Guthrie was able to bring to some of the Cocteau Twins’ more baroque moments. As it is, An Index Of Birds nearly slides off into a spectacularly ambient reverie and it’s very well done but I can’t help wondering if that’s what Kyle Monday really wants us to hear, medical demands upon our personages notwithstanding.

An Index Of Birds is very nearly a minor masterpiece, but it’s slightly overworked and Carta seem somehow to lack real artistic focus as a group although it remains a worthwhile addition to anyone’s post-rock CD collection. I, meanwhile, am going home in a neutral ambience, if Carta themselves don’t object.